Walter Mirisch: Former Academy President Dies At 101

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the 2009 Governors Awards in the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland in Hollywood, CA, on Saturday, November 14. Pictured here following the event past Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award recipients (left to right): Dino De Larentiis, Warren Beatty, Saul Zaentz, George Lucas, Norman Jewison, Walter Mirisch, and Steven Spielberg. (Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the passing of Walter Mirisch this past Friday at the age of 101.

Walter Mirisch
Walter Mirisch. © A.M.P.A.S.

Mirisch was an Oscar-winning producer and former Academy President, having served four terms. He died of natural causes. The University of Wisconsin Press published his memoir, I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History, in 2008.

“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is deeply saddened to hear of Walter’s passing,” noted Academy CEO Bill Kramer and Academy President Janet Yang. “Walter was a true visionary, both as a producer and as an industry leader. He had a powerful impact on the film community and the Academy, serving as our President and as an Academy governor for many years. His passion for filmmaking and the Academy never wavered, and he remained a dear friend and advisor. We send our love and support to his family during this difficult time.”

A native of New York, Mirisch enjoyed a film career that spanned more than six decades. He was one of the most prolific producers in Hollywood history. The Mirisch Company, formed in 1957 with his brothers Harold and Marvin, produced such films as Some Like It Hot (1959), The Magnificent Seven (1960), West Side Story (1961), The Great Escape (1963), The Pink Panther (1963), In the Heat of the Night (1967) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

Mirisch was a member of the Producers Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, served four terms as Academy President from 1973-1977 and 15 years as an Academy governor. Mirisch led numerous initiatives to evolve and secure a successful future for the organization, including establishing a new headquarters for the Academy in Beverly Hills.

The Academy honored Mirisch three times – with an Academy Award for Best Picture for In the Heat of the Night, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his “consistently high quality of motion picture production,” and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which is given to an individual whose “humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”

Deeply committed to serving his community, Mirisch also served in leadership roles for the Producers Guild of America, the Los Angeles Music Center, the Motion Picture and Television Fund, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center of Los Angeles, and UCLA.

He is survived by his children, Anne, Andrew and Lawrence Mirisch, his granddaughter and her husband, Megan and Craig Bloom, and his great-grandsons Emery and Levi Bloom. His wife, Patricia, passed away in 2005.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Motion Picture and Television Fund (MPTF).

A memorial service will be held at a future date.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.